Alcohol-related admissions to hospital have risen by 17% in the past 10 years, with 337,000 drinkers estimated to have been admitted in 2016/17 alone.
Moreover, alcohol-related harm is estimated to cost the NHS in England £3.5bn every year.
Under new preventative measures, costing an estimated £26m over five years according to The Times, expert alcohol care teams will work in the 25% worst affected parts of the country supporting patients and their families who have issues with alcohol misuse.
Teams will deliver alcohol checks and provide access to counselling, medically assisted help to give up drink and support to abstain from it within 24 hours if problems are found.
It’s estimated that these new measures could prevent 50,000 admissions and almost 250,000 bed days over five years.
In September 2018 The Morning Advertiser reported that All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group chairman Mike Wood highlighted that work by Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust that substantially reduced alcohol-related admissions by focusing on “frequent flyers” could be replicated across the country, saving the NHS huge amounts of money.
NHS left to ‘pick up the pieces’
Announcing the plans, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “Drinking to excess can destroy families, with the NHS too often left to pick up the pieces.
“Alcohol and tobacco addiction remain two of the biggest causes of ill health and early death, and the right support can save lives.
“The NHS Long Term Plan delivers a sea-change in care for a range of major conditions like cancer, mental ill health and heart disease, as well as stepping up to do more on preventing ill health in the first place by giving patients the support they need to take greater control of their own health and stay fitter longer.”
Clear case for intervention
Portman Group chief executive John Timothy commented: “Targeted specialist help for people who are alcohol dependent will be welcomed by all within the industry.
“We know that the majority of people in the UK are drinking sensibly, but there remains a small minority - around 4% of people in the UK - that continue to drink to dangerous and harmful levels.
“There is a clear case for targeted interventions, designed with the flexibility to be adapted for local need, to identify and support those people that need help.
“This will prove more effective and more cost efficient than any blanket measures to curb drinking.”
As part of new measures, NHS England will also introduce a scheme to help half-a-million people stop smoking.